Michael Fallon

Britain is bringing quality, not quantity, to the fight against Islamic State

Britain is bringing quality, not quantity, to the fight against Islamic State
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Contrary to what Fraser Nelson argues, Britain is playing a major role in the military campaign against ISIL.

Our planes have been flying day and night, conducting 8 per cent of the strikes in Iraq rather than 5 per cent. But this isn’t a numbers game – the UK brings a qualitative edge.

The skill of our RAF pilots and the capability of our aircraft means the UK can conduct the most complex strikes – what is known as dynamic targeting. This typically means responding to an Iraqi unit engaged in combat with ISIL and in need of immediate air support as we did last week to help recapture Sinjar. We also have the Brimstone missile – a low collateral damage, precision weapon that even the US do not possess. It means we can strike accurately and we are not aware of any civilian casualties having been caused by the UK over the first 14 months of the campaign.

Routine, pre-planned deliberate strikes on known ISIL infrastructure do not require such capability and are largely conducted by other air forces.

Our Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability is second to none. The Tornado’s RAPTOR pod is world-leading, meaning often it is employed in the tactical reconnaissance role instead of a strike role. Indeed, the Tornado gathers 60% of the Coalition’s tactical reconnaissance – vital information that enables targets to be found and struck with precision.

So we are playing a major part in Iraq but we are prevented from taking the fight to ISIL's heartland in Syria by a lack of parliamentary authority. The terrible attacks in Paris only underline the very real threat ISIL poses. That’s why the government is seeking to build a consensus for extending our operations so we strike at its core, not the periphery.

Michael Fallon is the Defence Secretary.